Khalid Salaam: The fact is that everyone knew the Patriots would be short-handed this season (or at least for a good part of the season) and most people still had them jotted down as a playoff squad. That’s proof-positive that the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick standard is extremely high, and that was before WR Danny Amendola and back-up RB Shane Vereen suffered injuries in Week 1. Did you see who was on the field for the Pats last night? The likelihood is that they are going to struggle to score on a lot of occasions. But what if they don’t? Or if they do struggle, they find ways to do just enough to win. As new players get acclimated to the Patriots system, they’ll get better, and scoring will go up. Right now Brady is frustrated because he’s missing guys like Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski, but it’s on, as soon as he gets used to playing with Aaron Dobson (in the meantime Brady has to work on that body language.)
There’s no telling when all their injured guys are going to return, and even once they do, it’s going to take a while before they return to full power. Brady and Belichick are going to have to push this thing forward on their own. If they go, say, 12-4 or 11-5, the debate is over. If they get to the AFC title game, I mean, it's a no-brainer then. At that point, not only are they the best coach/QB combination of all time, you have to give it to them as the GOATs at their respective positions. Brady jumps over Montana, Marino, Manning and everyone else. Belichick steps right over guys like Walsh, Shula and Lombardi and keeps it moving.
I don’t see how anyone can build a counter to that point, in fact, I dare anyone to disagree. This season will be a massive challenge, but if they succeed this year, the argument is over.
Richard Boadu: They’re already there. I know the old saying goes “what have you done for me lately,” but legacies aren’t built on the “now” of your work. Legacies are built on the overall body of your work.
Yes, it’s been 9 seasons since their last Super Bowl victory, but they’ve been there two times in the past five seasons. Bottom line, Belichick and Brady aren’t supposed to be here. Hell, they aren’t even supposed to be in the league. After 1995, Bill Belichick was supposed to be nothing more than a defensive coordinator. He was only 36 – 44 with the Cleveland Browns. I have no clue what Robert Kraft was thinking when he signed Belichick, but three Super Bowls later it was clearly the right decision. Tom Brady was an afterthought in the 2000 draft, going in the 6th round. If it weren’t for Drew Bledsoe getting hurt we wouldn’t know who Brady is.
Who’s better than this duo? Walsh and Montana? Bradshaw and Noll? Let’s be clear, those Steeler teams of the ‘70s were built on defense, not their offense. The 49ers of the ‘80s had Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, John Taylor and Brent Jones — all Pro Bowl players. Who did Brady have? Randy Moss for a split second. Wes Welker doesn’t count because Belichick and Brady made him, not the other way around. Sure, they had Aaron Hernandez and Gronk, but they haven’t won any Super Bowls with those guys. Brady and Belichick revolutionized the NFL and changed the way the game is played with journeymen. These two literally put an organization on their backs and handcrafted a dynasty.
*Bonus Question: Was the tackle that Clay Matthews made on Colin Kaepernick really “dirty,” or is this league headed for two-hand touch football for real?
Richard Boadu: Matthews’ tackle was fair. It was late, but it wasn’t dirty. Yes, he left his feet and launched himself at Colin Kaepernick, but he didn’t launch and lead with his helmet. He grabbed Kaep by the shoulders and brought him down.
Far too many times a quarterback will be scrambling out of bounds and slow down inches before they are fully out of bounds. A defensive player, hell, any football player period, is taught to play to the whistle. More often than not, even though the quarterback is legally touched in bounds, the defense is penalized for unnecessary roughness. I’ve seen times where defensive players have grabbed the quarterback in an attempt to slow their own momentum down, and end up accidentally knocking the quarterback down, only to draw a penalty when it’s clear as day the defender meant no harm.
The NFL won’t change because boundary plays involving QBs is being called tighter. Thus, the NFL will change because it doesn’t want a concussion issue on its hands. Yes, the $765 million dollar settlement was hush money, but it was merely a band-aid for a bigger issue. As players get bigger, stronger and faster the collisions will become more violent. People will start paying attention, especially mothers. Happy wife, happy life. If mama doesn’t want her little boy playing football, proud papa is going to have to be passive and find other sports options for his once future 1st round NFL draft pick. Moms will change the NFL before unnecessary roughness penalties will.
Khalid Salaam: I have zero issues with that hit. It was beautiful, in fact. The way Matthews was floating through the air was like one of those slow motion moments from NFL Films. I promise you, the next time the Packers and Niners play, that tackle will be played in the pre-game montage. Yeah it was a bit late, but Matthews had already started, I mean, what could he do at that point? There was no horse-collar, he didn’t grab his facemask and he resisted the urge to lead with the crown of his helmet. What else can you ask a linebacker to do? It’s not like he took out some small slot receiver, Kaep is 6'-5", man.
I just don’t know if the NFL can survive with these changes. I understand the legal issues with concussions and the league’s overall efforts in changing its image, but damn. I guess we’re going to have to get used to games with scores like 44-38 being a regular thing now. How are defensive players supposed to defend? We ask them to stop teams from scoring and then take away all the known ways of doing it. It’s just not going to work long-term.